Favourite Reference Works

Do you know that Peter S. Beagle adapted his ‘Come, Lady Death’ from his Fantasy World of Peter S. Beagle collection into a libretto for an opera, The Midnight Angel, which was written by David Carlson for the Glimmerglass Opera Company? Or that Charles de lint did a sweet — pun fully intended! — online tale about his immortal Crow Girls? Ahhh, now there’s something terribly interesting — the only copy that John Myers Myers annotated of his epic novel, Silverlock. What a lovely idea but only after you’ve read it!

Of course, Iain being a Librarian — though he refuses to confirm or deny that he actually has any formal training beyond being the Librarian at one time at to one of our neighbours just down the street from our office building — the Charles L. Dodgson School of the Imagination, named and funded by admirers of the mathematician who authored Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass – gets very excited about reference material from the common, say the Oxford Reader’s Companion to Charles Dickens, to such works as Bilbo Baggins’s travel journal, There and Back Again, and all of the known work of Caitlin Midhir – The Sleeping WarriorCloak and Hood, The BorderlandYarkin, and Grindylow and Other Stories. He says the latter are some of the finest reading he’s had the pleasure to do!

Gesturing with his one of his fingerless glove clad hands, he asks Holly Black, who is browsing amongst the stacks what her favourite work is. She replies up with ‘favorite reference in general? Probably Evans-Wentz’s Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries or K. Briggs’ Encyclopedia of Fairies. I do love the Clute books, though. Wainscott fantasy, indeed.’ The Clute books she refers to are the Encyclopedia of Fantasy and the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, fine works indeed if who ask me opinion.

I suggested we move this conversation to the kitchen where afternoon nibblies are being served…

Lisa Spangenberg, who styles herself the Digital Medievalist, is enjoying a cup of Blue Mountain. She has a fitting choice for a student of all things medieval – Calvert Watkin’s Dictionary of Indo-European Roots, available as an Appendix to the American Heritage Dictionary, which is available online here.

As befits someone steeped in music both folk and rock ‘n’ roll, Deborah Grabien says ‘Favourite reference? Ever? No contest: Francis James Child’s The English and Scottish Popular Ballads in Five Volumes.’

But Craig Clarke goes for more of a pop culture bent to his reference material – Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film, 1978- 1986, On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time RadioThe Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and RoflAll Music Guide to Rock, and the Videohound Golden Movie Retriever.

Denise Dutton says ‘It’s a toss-up between the Encyclopedia of Witchcraft & Demonology by Russel H. Robbins (always a fun trivia read) and the Complete Guide to Middle Earth by Robert Foster. I also have a Thesaurus from 1953 that I’m particularly fond of.’

Kelly Sedinger goes for the classics mostly: Wine for DummiesThe Merriam- Webster Encyclopedia of Literature; the Rand-McNally World Atlas; two historical atlases that I own; the NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to Celtic Music; the Oxford Book of English PoetryStrunk and White, the Oxford Pocket English Dictionary of which he wryly notes ‘Why they call it a pocket dictionary is beyond me; the thing is the size of the TPB edition of Cryptonomicon. You’d have to have massive pockets for that.’

Emma Bull gets the last word: ‘It depends on the book, of course. For every book, the Oxford English Dictionary, Fowler’s Modern English Usage, and the Chicago Manual of Style. For historical stuff, I’ve used What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew, and A Timeline of Inventions. And for Territory, my latest novel specifically, Paula Mitchell Marks’s And Die in the West: The Story of the OK Corral Gunfight and many many copies of True West Magazine. Many more sources than that for the current book, but Marks’s book is my foundation reading.’

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